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South Fellowship Church

Week 06

Join in Corporate Worship

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. Ephesians 5:18-19 NIV

December 1984, I traveled with many young people I had known from my church youth group to Urbana Illinois for a college missions conference called “Urbana ‘84”. At that time Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, a college campus ministry, put this mission conference on every 3 years. Several famous Christian speakers including Billy Graham, Elizabeth Elliott and Luis Palau attended. We students listened to these inspirational speakers, visited the exhibit hall and had one on one conversations with representatives of many different mission organizations. The idea behind Urbana ’84 was to get the 18,000 college students who attended, fired up and involved in the various opportunities for spreading the gospel throughout the world.

I attended a state university, so this was a unique opportunity for me to spend a week among other fellow Christian college students. My mind was expanded to think of the various ways we can all be involved in missions.

For me, the greatest impact was in our corporate singing. Most of us would arrive 30 minutes early at the large arena (holding 17,000 people), just so we could ensure we could get a seat and so we could participate in the corporate worship. This conference was so big not everyone could fit in each session; (1000 people had to watch on TV in overflow rooms). The singing, the blending of harmonies, the a cappella voices of 17,000 people singing “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” is an experience I will never forget and probably will never experience again this side of heaven.

The corporate singing was the highlight of this conference for me. Something a bit intangible happens when we sing together. It can happen with 5 people, 20, 100 or 17,000. But when we worship and sing together, we, “Let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly as [we] teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as [we] sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in [our] hearts to God,” Colossians 3:16. As we experience God’s presence, we are involved in teaching and learning God’s truth together when we sing together.

I encourage you to join in corporate worship this Sunday. Don’t focus on hitting the correct note; instead, worship God together with others, declare His goodness, praise Him for what He has done, and express your faith in His ability to work in our lives in the future.

Join in Corporate Worship2022-08-13T15:06:46-06:00

Worship as Warfare

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”
‭‭Joshua‬ ‭6:2-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Worship is more than singing. And, worshipful singing is more than a beautiful sound.

When we minimize worship to a few pre-planned songs on Sunday mornings, we strip corporate singing of all its power and authority.

Take the walls of Jericho for example. God specifically instructed the band to lead the battle against Jericho – not as just a mysterious miracle but as a teachable moment. That day the people of Israel had to surrender their best laid strategies, their independent longings for control, and their national reputation in God’s story.

In one day, they marched together seven times around the city walls as a symbol of unity and completion.

Worship became their weapon – not because it held power in and of itself but because of the process of surrendering their lives corporately and completely to the one in whom they worship.

Our corporate worship holds the same potential.

We can mark off territory for God through worship as we surrender more of ourselves to him. It’s the most powerful display of giving God full authority over our hearts and lives!

Singing together is not just an act of bringing a multitude of voices together to make a melodic sound. Singing together marks off greater territory for God’s kingdom in our hearts, our families, and our communities. Today, sing throughout your house to mark off territory for greater Kingdom influence.

Worship as Warfare2022-08-13T14:43:34-06:00

Just Sing

The first audio amplifier was unveiled in 1912 by a Yale PhD physics and electricity scientist, Lee de Forest. Since then, the modern world has become increasingly accustomed to overamplification – not only of sound – but practically all media. A restricted group of superstars, with awe-inspiring talents, accompanied by spectacular shows, have dominated our visual and listening bandwidths for over a century. Today it’s difficult to imagine a world without such things as full-room screens, stunningly complex audio systems, and sophisticated, portable, entertainment devices.

In 2003, the LA Times published this lament by performing arts critic Lewis Segal:

…when we do encounter live music, we expect it to match what we accept as the norm: the presence, detail and intensity of recordings. We’ve come to prefer processed music to the real thing.

With all this musical mega-talent at our fingertips, can ordinary Christians with substandard singing voices like mine glorify God satisfactorily?

If you’re fond of statistics, the word translated “sing” appears 400+ times in scripture and 50 of them are commands to sing to God. What attitude should those of us without musical gifts have when we sing? I conjecture that even in our imperfect state, God designed us to sing and intended our singing to have remarkable benefits in our relationship with him. Do we need a four-octave, pitch-perfect voice to obey these commands? Quick answer: No.

Does God ask us to do something he doesn’t do?

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17 ESV

Let’s go further…did Jesus sing? Scripture records remarkably few examples:

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Matthew 26:30 NIV

and

…he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying,
“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” Hebrews 2:11-12 ESV

The movie The Greatest Story Ever Told was released in 1965 with Max Von Sydow playing the role of Jesus – what a sad face – and that image is Von Sydow displaying his most cheerful look in the movie. It’s doubtful anyone watching the majority of movies portraying Jesus’ life would envision Jesus singing anything. The exception is Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, who depicted a singing Jesus in their 1971 musical Jesus Christ Superstar. Did that musical change the perception of Jesus to one of a frequent singer? Questionable. Portrayals of Jesus singing are perplexingly rare.

So if you’re an ungifted singer like me, don’t lose heart, Jesus didn’t major in music. Your obedience to the singing commands will be accepted by our gracious God.

You can also anticipate an eternity to glorify him with singing.

And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:9-10 ESV

Today memorize or review a familiar scripture or vital theological theme set to a simple tune. Here are some resources: Psalms set to music and other scriptures set to music. And also remember you have two other reliable avenues of obedience – singing during congregational worship and this verse for those who are truly unable to sing:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Psalms 100:1 ESV

Just Sing2022-08-13T13:59:44-06:00

Singing – A God Designated Pathway to Joy

For the director of music. For pipes. A psalm of David.

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. (Psalm 5:11)

For the director of music. To the tune of ‘The Death of the Son.” A psalm of David.

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High. (Psalm 9:1-2)

A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah.

I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. (Psalm 63:2-5)

For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. (Psalm 51:10-15.)

Because singing is the focus of this week’s devotional writing, the four psalms above mention singing and the joy, praise and rejoicing that can result from singing. These are a small sampling of the different reasons for a psalm (facing a situation, or recognizing sin), to whom the psalm was directed (for the director of music) and sometimes particular tunes, (The Death of a Son) or (in some other places in the Psalms) the instruments or voices by which to perform them. What it indicates to me is, that though these psalms can be used for private worship and encouragement, they are intended to be used in corporate worship, also.

I grew up singing hymns and choruses which often came from one or more verses in the Psalms. As I read through the Psalms, I hear in my mind, “Thy Loving Kindness is Better Than Life”, “Create in Me A Clean Heart, O God”, “O God You Are My God”.

I have found that I can memorize verses in scripture easier if they are set to music. Melody and rhythm are aids for instructing me. Perhaps this works for you, too. If you have a hymnal, refresh your mind with some of the hymns you have enjoyed. Or check out some of your favorites on YouTube. One I particularly enjoyed was “Create in Me A Clean Heart, O God”  or country version  by Maranatha Singers.

Singing – A God Designated Pathway to Joy2022-08-13T12:58:59-06:00

TRUE REWARD

Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James… (I Corinthians 15:6-7 ESV)

This week we’ve been looking at the life of James, one of the brothers of Jesus, leader of the early church in Jerusalem, and author of the book of James. We’ve explored what his relationship with Jesus might have been at various times in his life. Here’s a synopsis of Hegesippus, Historia 5, a record of how James died:

During the festival of Passover in 62 AD some of the priestly class, eager to deter the Christian sect from spreading, crowded around James and urged him to denounce Jesus while standing on the parapet of the temple. Instead of denouncing Jesus, James said with a loud voice “Why do you ask me about the Son of Man? He is sitting in heaven at the right hand of the Great Power and He will come on the clouds of heaven.” As a result of this testimony, some onlookers rejoiced and others placed their faith in Jesus. Seeing their mistake, the priests shoved James to the ground below. When James fell he was still alive, so some stoned him, but the final death blow was administered with a club.

Why did the priests think James might denounce Jesus? It likely was because the priestly class regarded him as a righteous, honest man who would respect their authority. Here are some of James’ urgings to us:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing….Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:22-27 ESV)

How did James have a winsome way with those priests even though they viewed Christianity as a dangerous heresy? Again, James wrote:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20 ESV)

The account of James’ earthly end reminds me that Jesus followers who are kind listeners, gentle helpers and above reproach are not assured protection from persecution by virtue of those character qualities. In fact, just the opposite can occur.

Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. (Luke 6:22-23 ESV)

Maybe it’s the Sunday School exhortations and rewards some of us received as children that make us think we’ll get lots of automatic “likes” for godly behavior. At any rate, it’s false hope to think the world around us is eager to give us kudos for obeying Jesus and giving Him the glory for it.

Take a minute to remind yourself – when you please Jesus with your actions (especially if it seems no one else notices) – rejoice that your reward is great in heaven.

TRUE REWARD2022-05-29T21:17:49-06:00

James’ Ministry

When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. Acts 15:13

He hears the sounds of Jerusalem waking up. As the city awakes, it beckons his eyes to open. His mind begins the acknowledge the new day. Thoughts of what the day holds begin to meander through his mind. Then all of a sudden, the magic of his life and calling begins to hit him. His day would be filled with teaching, encouraging, and fanning the flame of this fledgling movement of Jesus followers. To think, not long ago, he wouldn’t have been caught dead associating with this movement. Now, he was part of the leadership of it. Everything had changed since he had seen his brother resurrected.

This week in our daily writings, we have explored the character of James, the brother of Jesus. We saw his childhood, rejection of Jesus’ ministry, and conspicuous absence at his brother’s crucifixion. If you fast forward to the book of Acts, you find James standing up and leading the Jerusalem church. It’s somewhat jarring to observe James’s massive change of heart. His entire life is spent advocating for the reality that his brother is God and savior.

This is the power of resurrection. If the resurrection is real, it can change everything. It didn’t just win James over; it caused him to rise as a leader in the church.

Do you have someone you have given up on, someone you have prayed for but rejected your faith? Don’t give up hope. James was an unlikely character to become a leader in the early church. Yet, he becomes a leader in the movement he had rejected before seeing his dead brother rise again. Don’t give up hope on your loved ones. If God can raise the dead, he can also change everything for those around you. Ask God to make his resurrected presence real. When people encounter God alive, they can’t help it; they will be changed.

James’ Ministry2022-05-29T21:15:03-06:00

BECOMING A DISCIPLE

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. I Corinthians 15:3-8 NIV

When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. Acts 1:13-14 NIV

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:7-10 NIV

Today we are looking at the 50 days between Jesus’ crucifixion and the day of Pentecost in James – Jesus’ brother’s life. But to fully appreciate it, a little background is needed. James is listed as Jesus’ brother in Mark 6:1-3, and was not yet a disciple of Jesus when he, his mother Mary and his brothers came to Jesus, “they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind,’” Mark 3:21. So – as Jesus’ ministry progressed – James was not a member of Jesus’ disciples. It is also notable that the only family members mentioned at the crucifixion were Mary – Jesus’ mother and her sister.

After the crucifixion, on the first day of the week, the resurrection occurred and the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus began. The gospels tell us of 9 of these different occasions when Jesus appeared in his resurrected body to one or more people. I Corinthians 15 tells us of 2 occasions not mentioned elsewhere. One of these was to James, Jesus’ brother. “Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,” I Corinthians 15:7. Paul was writing a letter to the church at Corinth, and was emphasizing the importance of Jesus’ resurrection and the proof of his resurrection by listing many of Jesus’ post resurrection appearances in I Corinthians 15.

The next mention of James is in Acts 1:14. “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” Jesus ascended to Heaven 40 days after His resurrection and he told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit. What changed? James and his brothers are now listed as being a part of the group of disciples in the upper room, praying and awaiting the coming Holy Spirit. Why do you think James and his brothers are now listed as believers? Could it be that James now understood, believed, and was now committed to following his brother – Jesus – the Messiah?

Paul told us James saw the resurrected Jesus with his own eyes. The presence of Jesus made the difference in James’ life.
How about you? Can you think of a time when the presence of Jesus, an answer to prayer, a time of worship has made an impact on your life? Thank Jesus for His presence in your life.

BECOMING A DISCIPLE2022-06-01T11:58:35-06:00

TENSION WITHIN THE FAMILY

“Jesus left [the region of Galilee] and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.”
‭‭- Mark‬ ‭6:1-5‬ ‭NIV

Jesus could not do miracles in his hometown. Does this surprise you? Perhaps you’ve heard this story, but have you considered how Jesus would have felt as the authority of God’s Kingdom is limited in his own backyard? Jesus’ authority is limited not by lack of power, but by lack of belief. And notice WHO are the ones lacking in belief – Jesus’ closest friends and family.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry, we catch glimpses of his family dynamics. At one point Jesus’ family thinks he’s out of his mind, not taking care of himself, and they go find him in hopes of straightening him out (Mark 3:20-21). Another time we see his mother and brothers unable to get to Jesus because of the crowds. And Jesus flat out says, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put them into practice” – as if to say, “though my mothers and brothers are related to me, they do not necessarily hear God’s words and put them into practice” (‭‭Luke‬ ‭8:19-21). Ouch.

Limiting God’s authority by lack of faith must have been a major disappointment for Jesus and created some tension within his family dynamics. But, imagine how it would feel to be on a journey of discovering your God-given identity and not be fully supported by your mother and brothers. That’s painful.

If you follow Jesus, I’d imagine you can relate. Sometimes the things Jesus calls us to do create tension in relationships, perhaps even rejection. In what ways has your choice to follow Jesus brought about tension in your closest relationships? Tell Jesus about how this makes you feel and let him sit with you in empathy.

TENSION WITHIN THE FAMILY2022-05-29T21:08:34-06:00

To See Jesus More Clearly

As soon as Jesus was baptized he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased,” (Matthew 3:16-17)

Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:32-34)

Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “Isn’t this the Carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
( Mark 6:1-3)

Some forty years ago, because of the above scriptures, I went on a hunt for clues to the thirty years of Jesus’s ordinary life before he was baptized, traveled all over Galilee and Judea teaching and healing, was crucified, resurrected, and ascended into heaven. I wanted to get to know Jesus as not only my Lord and Savior, but also as a companion in the dailiness of my life.

Matthew 2:13-23 records Joseph and Mary traveling with Jesus to and later from Egypt. Luke 2:2-39 tells about Jesus at 8 days being presented at the temple in Jerusalem and their return to Nazareth. Luke 2:40 says, “And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon him”. Luke 2:41-51 is the story of Jesus at age 12 staying behind in the temple and his parents searching for him. Jesus asked, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” but his parents didn’t understand. Then Jesus went back to Nazareth and was obedient to his parents.
Luke 2:52 says “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.

Philippians 2:5-8 describes the humility of Jesus during his whole life on earth.
Hebrews 5:8 says that “although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered”. and Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but we have one who has been tempted in every way just as we are—yet was without sin”.

So what does this mean to me? As a child,I heard from adults,“When you get out into the REAL world”! As adults, we forget the “real world” of our childhood.

For thirty hidden years, from birth to adulthood, Jesus experienced our “real world” with and for us. He knows about learning to walk, talk, go to school, live in a family with siblings and in a community as an apprentice carpenter, then as a businessman. It helps me, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to live more in the way of Jesus with his heart.

Take some time to meditate on the scriptures above. Ask Jesus to show you what he knows about everyday living that can help you in what you experience. Thank him for what he shows you. Get to know Jesus as your daily companion as well as your Lord and Savior.

To See Jesus More Clearly2022-05-29T21:05:55-06:00

Fear VS. Trust

Major themes unify the story of the bible. These patterns help us learn, but they also appear because humans repeatedly behave in the same ways. One of those patterns is the tension between trusting God’s plan rather than taking matters into our own hands. The characters in the bible struggle to trust what God tells them. If we are honest, we often struggle with the same thing. Why is that? The answer is fear.

You can see this pattern active in the life of Abraham over and over again. God asks him to do something counterintuitive, like leave his family. Sometimes Abraham trusts God and the results are beautiful. Other times he lets his fear act against God’s instructions. God keeps inviting Abraham to live differently than the people around him. Upon first glance, that may sound unfair or unreasonable for God to ask of a person. When you reflect on the horrible evil and suffering that results from people’s natural way of living, you might see why God makes alternative suggestions.

So how does this relate to fear? Fear is the motivating force behind many of humanity’s evil and destructive actions. In an attempt to preserve our safety and comfort, we do things that cause harm to others. When you fill the world with many people living in fear, there is a lot of damage. God seems to invite us to trust him and his design for the world. What if your fears are one of the worst guides for life? What if God is actually in control and can care for you? Would that free you up to live differently?

What threads of fear are in your story? Do you fear being left out? Do you fear not having enough money? Take a moment in prayer and offer those fears to God. Ask him to help you trust that he sees, knows, and can care for you. Now ask yourself, how might I care for someone else if I am no longer afraid of the things I normally am?

Fear VS. Trust2022-04-03T21:00:35-06:00
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